Always here, sort of

Posted by Ken Campbell September 6, 2009 1 Comment 778 views

An article on the editorial page caught my eye this morning (Damn that Sunday paper!) Columnist Leonard Pitts writes about the possibility that it may no longer be an option to be completely off the grid. Out of touch. To light out for the territories. He spends part of his article commenting on a piece by another writer, one Evan Ratliff, who has also addressed the changing meaning of solitude. Ratliff’s article, says Pitts, “suggests that, in a world where we are ever more interconnected, where your whereabouts can be traced by everything from the GPS in your cell phone to the magnetic stripe on your grocery card, to the camera mounted over the ATM, a world where you can be ratted out by your e-mail account, your favorite e-merchant, your social networking site, your subway card or the sticker on your car that lets you zip through the toll plaza, it has become nearly impossible to simply vanish.”

I agree with Pitts that this represents a loss, of something. Something slippery, vaguely valuable and woefully difficult to define, that hovers just out of memory’s reach. I think, however, that he is showing up to the reality party a little late. We have been monitored for quite some time… it’s not news, exactly. We have, perhaps, reached some kind of a tipping point, at least in civilized company, where we are tracked, or at least trackable… I’d buy that. I assume that I am always being filmed anymore, the ubiquitous judging bauble of the lens is virtually everywhere. Part of the scenery.

Pitts continues: “The world is so much with us now, an intrusive presence anonymity cannot abide. Our predilections are catalogued, our travel monitored, our faces watched, our purchases logged. In exchange for convenience, we lose the ability to simply pull the plug and be.”

All the more reason for wilderness. Wilder-ness. The way it used to be, still.

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